Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Iraq and UNHCR Transfer Ahwazi Asylum Seekers Despite Deportation and Death Fears

Ahwazi Childern in Al Waleed camp
Iraq's Minister of Displacement and Migration, Dindar Ndjeman Dosky told reporters today that UNHCR closed down Al Waleed refugee camp in Syria-Iraq border and transferred Ahwazi refugees to Basra, a southern province controlled by Iran's loyalists and their militia, Iranian Kurds to Kurdistan region and Palestinian to Baghdad.

Despite International and Ahwazi rights groups such as Amnesty International and UNHCR concerns Iraq has transferred 100 including children and women Ahwazi Asylum seekers in Basrah face ill-treatment, torture, reparation and possible death or life sentences after decision was made by Interior ministry on 4 November 2011.

On 14 January 2011 Amnesty International " urged the Iraqi authorities to prevent the forcible return to Iran of several members of the Ahwazi Arab minority amid fears that they would be at serious risk of torture and other human rights violations in Iran.Two recognised refugees, Shahhed Abdulhussain Abbas Allami and Saleh Jasim Mohammed al-Hamid, are currently being detained in Basra prison, while a third man has already been transferred to the custody of Iranian officials in Iraq." At least three other Ahwazi Arabs, all members of the same family, are also at serious risk. They are believed to have been detained by the Iraqi authorities at the request of the Iranian government because their father is an Iranian political activist, currently exiled. Two members of this family, both aged under 18, have already been handed to Iranian officials in Iraq and their subsequent fate is unknown."

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)  After Iranian agents assassinated 4 of Ahwazis, around 100 of them fled to Trebil on the Iraqi Jordanian border. After the closure of trebil camps Ahwazi found them trapped in Al Waleed Camp. 

 On July 2011 Minority Voices published a letter by AODHR describing  the plights of  Ahwazi refugees  as " tents of al-Waleed camp in the deserts of Iraq near the Syrian border, close to the city of al-Rotbah in southern Iraq offer the only home to about 90 Ahwazi refugees. The isolated camp was set up in 2006 by the refugees themselves as the Ahwazi had nowhere to flee to except the closest no-man's land. The camp host mostly Arabs from Ahwaz, Iranian Kurds, and Palestinians. These asylum-seekers say that they have been told that their camp should be torn down.

These vulnerable people fled Iran and death threats have found themselves in horrendous conditions in the desert. The camp lacks  hygiene and an and  medical care amid extreme weather conditions. Children, women and the elderly have died due to the lack of adequate health care. The nearest hospital is four hours drive' away along a dangerous route. The tents are overcrowded and many residents have chronic respiratory ailments, high blood pressure, and diabetes and heart problems. Tents fill with water when it rains, and temperatures can fall below freezing in the winter. In the summer, temperatures above 50C have been recorded, while sandstorms, fires, snakes and scorpions all present dangers. With no sewage system, waste water runs openly through the camp, leading to a higher occurrence of disease and infections among children who play between the tents.

Residents say they have been harassed and persecuted by armed groups funded by Iran as well as US and Iraqi forces. UNHCR also bears its full share of responsibility for failing to uphold even the most basic of rights for the camp’s Ahwazi residents.

In order to get more information about the situation of these refugees, we contacted the office of UNHCR in Amman, but nobody was prepared to give us any answers.
 The al-Waleed camp is in the desert, and the people in it have been living under tents for 7 years [the 7 years includes the years at the Jordan border]. The nearest city is al-Rotbah, which is 2 hours from al-Waleed by car. Children have been denied school.
For these reason, the Ahwazi in the al-Waleed camp, have staged in a sit-in for the past month, in front of the UNHCR office in the camp. The objective of this sit-in and strike is to put an end to the UN’s silence.  The Ahwazi asylum living in A-lwaleed camp are wanted by the Iranian revolutionary guards and some Iraqi militant who are funded by Iranian regime . ‘We want to put an end to living the life of vagabonds, a life under tents. We want to get rid of this desert of dust and dirt and the burning sun. We want to start a new life in which our children can go to school’ said Ahwazi from the Al-waleed camp.

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